Seamus, our electronic weather avatar, told me to forget the morning football games, the second cup of coffee, my recent fascination with the chestnut backed chickadees hammering the bird feeder. He told me to grab Aki, put on ice grippers on my boots, and head for Gasteneau Meadows. The little potbellied ikon can’t speak but he did stand beneath a cartoon cloud dropping cartoon snow on his round watch-capped head and on the number, “27.” This meant that after weeks of modestly warm temperatures and light rain, it was finally cold enough to firm up the mountain snowpack but snow would soon fall. For a short time, we could and did move easily over deep meadow snows.
Seamus’ promised snow held off for the morning walk between mountain hemlock and bull pines. Nothing obscured tracks left by a hunting wolf, snowshoe hares (its prey?), and a struggling deer. High clouds moved to reveal and obscure mountain peaks. Once, they released rays of sun that drew a line of bright dashes across Mountain Juneau.
These magic convergences come on spring mornings along the Kuskokwim River in Western Alaska. When we lived there in a house surrounded by eight sled dogs, I longed for April saturdays when the dogs could fly over the crusted over tundra, hardly slowed by our weight and that of the camp gear. After a winter of being restricted to snow machine trails and smooth stretches of frozen water, we were free to explore the voids in the government maps, maybe see pure white ptarmigan fly at our approach.